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Towle tabbed for Marshall

Meghan Wons | Monday, December 4, 2006

Senior Meg Towle’s passion for and dedication to promoting international health as an essential foundation for peace building will take her to the United Kingdom next year as one of the 43 Marshall Scholarship recipients for 2007.

Towle said she will use her all-expenses paid scholarship to pursue a M.S. of humanitarian studies at The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, associated with the University of Liverpool.

“I like how the program at Liverpool is about – ‘How do we get public health to work on the ground?'” Towle said. “I think it will be so cool to be there with people from all over the world and to draw from others’ experiences. It will definitely be an international learning experience.”

She expects to complete the M.S. in one year and said the scholarship allows for some flexibility as to how she will use the second year.

“For now I’m saying I’ll probably stay on at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, but I could get there and find some other fabulous program,” she said.

Towle said she learned she had been selected for the prestigious award on Nov. 8, the same day she was interviewed by a committee in Chicago.

“I don’t think it really hit me until I called my brother, who’s a freshman here (at Notre Dame), and was like ‘Well, you can come visit me in England next year,'” Towle said. “It’s just been kind of surreal.”

She said her application process wasn’t an extremely long one; she found out the deadline for the scholarship was Sept. 1 as she was in the process of packing up boxes to go back to school at the end of the summer.

She approached the application with the same energy and spirit that has enabled her to do so much with her time at Notre Dame: she said she dug through some boxes to find her computer and just got to work.

“My first loves are Latin America and Africa,” Towle said, and she hopes her study in England will contribute to her ultimate goal of working in international health.

She said she is especially interested in studying HIV and AIDS in conflict-ridden areas and looking at healthcare for refugees and displaced populations, “especially women’s health.”

Towle said her passion for international health was sparked in high school after she traveled to La Paz, Bolivia as part of a medical mission trip with a team of doctors from Kansas, her home state.

She said her dad, who was traveling as part of the mission, told her that he thought it sounded like a wonderful opportunity and if she could fundraise the money for the trip, she should get on board.

In Bolivia, she said she watched numerous reconstructive surgeries performed – “children with cleft lips and horrible burn victims, for example.”

Towle came to Notre Dame intending to major in pre-med, but decided after freshman year to double major in anthropology and international peace studies.

“I was more interested in the health of communities than of individuals,” she said.

An honors student, Towle has earned a spot on the Dean’s List every semester.

She was also named one of only 20 Presidential Scholars at Notre Dame when she was a freshman. According to Notre Dame’s Office of News and Information, the Presidential Scholars are “recognized as top academic students and potential leaders” in the Notre Dame community.

Outside of the classroom, Towle’s activism in international health issues and community education and empowerment has been evident.

During her freshman year, Towle and fellow classmate Steve Cartwright founded LeadND, a program that promotes leadership development and service learning among local middle school students. Now in four local schools, LeadND relies on a large number of “wonderful volunteers” from Notre Dame and members of the local community who have supported the vision of the program, she said.

Towle said being involved with LeadND has been one of the best things about her time at Notre Dame.

“It’s been like a full-time job for me these past few years,” Towle said.

She and Cartwright joke “that we are the grandma and grandpa of the program … we are currently in the process of transitioning the leadership,” she said.

Other formative experiences during her undergraduate career include time spent studying abroad in Mexico last spring and researching and working in the African nation of Lesotho last summer, Towle said.

While in Mexico, Towle taught global health to middle school students and did a research project on how globalization has affected HIV / AIDS in Mexico, especially the migrant population, she said.

During her time in Lesotho, she did research on community-based health and worked at Touching Tiny Lives (TTL), a child’s safe home and HIV / AIDS outreach program founded by a Notre Dame graduate impacted by his Peace Corps service there, Towle said.

“TTL is not an orphanage; the whole goal of the program is to re-unify (children with their families),” she said.

She said she was especially interested in exploring how transmission of HIV from mother to child might be prevented.

Towle said that a UROP grant enabled her to employ the help of a translator while in Lesotho to aid her in her research. She said that her translator allowed her to “learn so much more by cutting down on the language barrier.”

Conducting research in Lesotho was especially exciting for Towle as she was instrumental in founding the Touching Tiny Lives Foundation, a non-profit with a mission of “ensuring the health and reclaiming the dignity of children impacted by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Lesotho.”

Towle said the Foundation “does a lot of fundraising and there is a big effort in furthering education about issues that affect Lesotho.”

Towle said she would love to see similar Foundations based on the Touching Tiny Lives model directed at supporting other countries.

Despite all of her academic accomplishments and involvement in the local and international communities, Towle is humble about being chosen for a Marshall Scholarship.

“This is the effort and support of so many people and a sign of how awesome of a place Notre Dame is,” Towle said. “I’m thankful for that.”

Marshall Scholarships were established in 1953 by an Act of Parliament to enable future American leaders to study in the United Kingdom, to promote an understanding and appreciation of Britain, to contribute to intellectual development in a variety of fields and to motivate scholars to serve as ambassadors from the United States to the United Kingdom and vice versa.